SA experiencing infrastructure deficit and backlog: Zikalala

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South Africa is experiencing an infrastructure deficit and a backlog that have hampered the adequate delivery of services. That’s according to Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Sihle Zikalala.

The minister hosted a young professionals’ seminar with industry role players in the engineering and building environment. The Young Professionals Programme is looking at addressing skills shortages in the building industry and developing skills capacity to support the country’s-built environment industry.

Zikalala spent the day with young professionals in the building environment space. These are engineers, architects and project managers who have studied through the department’s multi-million-rand bursary programme. But many are still facing a number of challenges.

“Today we came here and I came with the sole question of, has the department actually lost the capacity to procure and deliver on infrastructure projects, so currently as to what I am sitting with in right now is that you realise within a multidisciplinary, we sit in a multidisciplinary team and as situated in that team as professionals within the built environment we are well aware of such,” says Lunga Sithole, landscape architect.

Video: Zikalala hosts young professionals’ seminar

The Council for Built Environment has called for transformation within the sector, saying the candidates are seemingly growing frustrated.

“These are young people who are going through a candidacy program and therefore it is important that as we design the programmes on how you can go through your professional journey as a young professional. We also appreciate the challenge they may encounter one of them is that for you to become a professional registered person in the built environment you must have a good mentor,” says Dr Msizi Myeza, Council for Built Environment CEO.

But the minister has sought to assure the young professionals that efforts are under way to accelerate the professional registrations within the built environment and to close the identified gaps.

“We cannot allow that we invest on people and lose them like that to become unemployed again, we want Mr Myeza and the team that we consider, one the issue of registration, it can’t be that people would be candidates for seven years, but it can’t also be so difficult for people to register, and this must be addressed. We have to ensure that we have a database of all departments on infrastructure and construction and be able to ensure that we deploy all of this interns and graduates,” says Zikalala.

Young people also engaged in a panel discussion with industry stakeholders are hopeful that their concerns won’t fall on deaf ears.

“The challenges that we actually encounter is regarding the lack of mentorship, since this young professional program is ensuring that we get registered but in order for us to be registered we need a proper structure so that we can register within the period of the contract that we are given, so lack of mentorship actually becomes a challenge. There is a commitment from the minister that they are going to form a structure to ensure that there is a mentorship program that includes all the stakeholders that are involved in the program,” Khanimambo Maluleke, candidate engineer.

The minister has also allayed fears of project disruptions by the construction mafia, saying they are working with communities and law enforcement authorities to address this.

The young professionals’ seminar is being touted as an enabler of smart infrastructure delivery and a vehicle to addressing infrastructure backlogs.

A commitment from government and role players to accelerate professional registration within the built environment, strengthen mentorships and ensure maximum exposure of candidates to national and international projects.

Video: Zikalala hosts young professionals’ seminar